Post No.: 0019
Human cognitive biases explain so much about human social squabbles, divisions and conflicts. They help explain why nearly everyone thinks they’re right and everyone who disagrees with oneself is wrong, why everyone thinks they’re the good guys (acting only in ‘self-defence’) and other groups are the bad guys, why the vast majority of people in the world think they’re at least above average in trustworthiness, fairness and intelligence, and so forth in many desirable dimensions.
We must learn about these biases via scientific experiments and education rather than via personal intuition or experience – because they are precisely errors of personal intuition, perception, judgement and memory itself!
Our intuition doesn’t have the ability to realise its own cognitive errors and biases – especially because one such major bias is presuming that one isn’t biased at all (or is far less biased than most others) and that one is the one who is truly seeing the world ‘objectively and truthfully’ (but read Post No.: 0008 about how no one perceives reality objectively at all). Everyone tends to instantly and automatically think that it’s other people, not themselves, who fail to see or remember the world correctly if there’s a disagreement in perception or recall. Most people have experience of people behaving irrationally or illogically now and again but they constantly explain that away as ‘some other people are indeed irrational or illogical’, as their own biases make them blind to their own biases (hence the ‘bias blind spot’) and make them forget they’re humans with human instincts and flaws too.
It seems to be always other people’s fault (e.g. one may complain that too many other people are present at a popular tourist hangout and that’s ruining the place when one is there – but one may neglect the blatant fact that one is precisely one of those very people there!) The most biased or blind to their own biases are likely those who think they’re not biased or as biased as others, and those who instantly look for excuses that blame other people or things rather than themselves when things go wrong. They may even think ‘so what?’ or search for other excuses when they learn that they are indeed biased.
If one thinks one is immune to psychological manipulations and suggestibility then one is simply unaware of all the psychological influences present in the environment. So good luck trying to teach someone outside of the context of a formal teaching of the subject (inside where they’ll hopefully be more open-minded and voluntarily ready to accept the unsettling truth about themselves) that their own perceptions, intuitions, judgements and memories are frequently wrong! They’ll likely automatically reject this conclusion. (So good luck to me here! Woof!)
Of course whole groups can be wrong too, with each blind member leading the blind. Even otherwise intelligent people should realise they hold strong biases too, but they don’t always do and therefore they don’t always try to account for them (e.g. by being less arrogant or stubborn about what they think they know for sure). People tend to be overconfident when comparing themselves as an individual to their group, when comparing their group (e.g. their own nationality or ethnicity) to other groups in the human race, and when comparing the human race to other animals in the animal kingdom. Intuitive minds also prefer simple views and answers when reality is actually far more complicated than that.
Human rationality is limited. In lots of situations humans are even predictably irrational (e.g. in many situations that involve money). Whilst there may exist some idiosyncrasies, we’ll do well to remember that humans are human animals with common human instincts and human biases of perception, judgement and memory, and we’re therefore not each as unique as we may think or want to believe we are (after all, humans share much of the same genes and environment with many other humans). So if others are flawed then so are we.
So in the context of human biases, we do not know what we do not know, and we highly likely won’t ever know about them just from personal intuition or experiences. And because most people won’t ever voluntarily formally study this subject or get their intuitions formally experimentally tested – most people will go to their graves not ever knowing why they and other people are the way they and other people are. One of my furry aims with this blog is to improve the understanding and therefore empathy between all peoples, which I believe will contribute to a more harmonious, less arrogant world. I hope this blog can be an intermediary between formally studying this subject of human behaviour and not exploring this subject at all (although I do recommend taking one or more MOOCs on psychology and social psychology too).
As a part-time puppy, part-time human (yeah I’m magical, and so is Fluffystealthkitten, but we won’t go into that just yet) – I hold biases too no matter how hard I try to counter them. That is why I believe we must mix in diverse circles, study with people from all over the world and listen to all others, especially those we don’t initially agree with, to try to balance and cancel out each other’s biases. Diversity is how progress is made!